Several ladies have asked how we were called to Canada, and specifically how I responded to God's call here. I'll be happy to answer, but this will be long!
My husband spent 10 years in the US Air Force. When he separated from the military in 1996, he became one of the assistant pastors at Baptist Temple in Ft. Worth, TX, under the ministry of Bro. Mickey Hollars. We had served in this church when Wes was stationed at Carswell AFB there in Ft. Worth from 1990-1993, and we loved Bro. Mickey and the people, so we were thrilled to be back there serving the Lord. As far as we were concerned, we would be there the rest of our lives.
Near the end of 2000, both of us began to get restless. My mother-in-law, who has been saved for around 45 years now and is a missionary's wife in Jamaica, said to me one day that when God is getting ready to move you, He begins to "stir up your nest." We weren't having any problems at the church or with anyone there, but we our nest was definitely being stirred up. We both thought that God was going to give Wes a church, and because we were from the Carolinas, we thought that maybe we'd go back out there. I was particularly excited about that, because both of my grandmothers were there, and a large portion of the rest of my family. There were also tons of good camp meetings and revival services to go to, and old friends from school. In the back of my mind, I had the picture of Wes pastoring an established church with a parsonage beside it. I pictured dedicated people who learned to love us and wanted to take care of us. I imagined going to see my best friend down in GA, who is also a pastor's wife - we've seen each other about 4 times in the past 20 years, so I was sure we'd get together more often if I were living relatively close to her. Yes, I had all my plans laid; now all that was missing was . . . God giving Wes a church! Yes! I was just waiting for God to come through for me!
About this time, our pastor talked to Wes and asked him what his plans were for the future. Wes answered him honestly, telling him that he was perfectly content to stay there at Baptist Temple, but he really felt that the Lord would eventually send us somewhere else, we just didn't know where. Bro. Mickey responded that he had felt that God was beginning to move us too. Knowing our preacher as a man who never makes changes quickly, waiting on the Lord for as long as necessary, Wes and I both felt that we were indeed on the right track, and that Wes could begin to "knock" on some doors to see what opened to us. For about a year, he would send resumes to churches looking for a pastor, but not one of them ever answered! Finally, a church near Ft. Worth called, looking for a pastor. Wes said he'd come and candidate. Unknown to each other, Bro. Mickey, Wes, and I all felt a check in our spirits about this after he agreed to come. After about 3 days, Wes told me he didn't feel it was the right thing; I said I didn't either. When he went to Bro. Mickey to tell him, he said that he had felt the same way! LOL So Wes called the pulpit comittee of that church and apologized. That church did find a good pastor, and it is now one of our supporting churches! But anyway, nothing was opening up, and we were beginning to wonder what was going on.
One day in early 2001, Bro. Mickey brought a magazine into Wes's office and asked him to read an article entitled "Ten Supercities of the 21st Century." This was a reprint in a Baptist magazine of a secular article about ten cities around the world whose populations were expected to explode during the 21st century. Vancouver, BC, was one of those cities. For some reason it had caught Bro. Mickey's eye, and he mentioned it to Wes. As Wes began to read and pray about this article, he became more and more burdened for Vancouver. He spent several weeks praying about it before he mentioned it to me. Now remember, my heart was longing for the southestern US. He called me from his office one day and asked me what I thought about going to Vancouver, Canada. The first words out of my mouth were, "That's the opposite direction of where I want to go!" Yes, ma'am! My first thought was not God's will, but my will. Wes said, "Well, we're not leaving tomorrow. Just think about it and pray about it." I was stunned! I didn't want to be a missionary. I didn't want to go to Canada. I wanted to go home, back to SC.
For most of a week, I argued with God. I had been so sure that He was going to send us back to SC, that I felt He was cheating me now. I argued about my grandmothers; they were both elderly, and I could help take care of them, especially my mother's mother. She was sick with Alzheimer's, and my mother was dead, so I needed to be there to help take care of her. I had so many arguments! They all included "this is what I want." On about the 5th day of this running argument, I heard that familiar, still, small voice ask me, "So . . . you're willing to sacrifice your husband's ministry and any chance of your children serving me in the future, just to have your own way?" At that point I knew that I could have my way, but it would cost my family. My husband wouldn't go somewhere and drag me along, kicking and screaming; I would be partially responsible for his being out of God's perfect will if I insisted on my own way. My children, although they didn't know all that was going on, would see that Mama could get her own way if she held out long enough. Maybe they would think they could do the same with God. Maybe my daughter would learn to resist God and, someday, her own husband, by watching me get my own way. I was driving to the grocery store, alone, when all this was going through my mind. I began to cry; my heart softened toward the Lord, and I surrendered to His will, whatever it might be, wherever it might take us, driving down McCart Ave. in Ft. Worth.
We spent most of that year praying about going to Vancouver and learning what we could about the city and its spiritual needs. Bro. Mickey called a meeting of the men of the church and asked them to pray about it. Wes gave each man a map of the Greater Vancouver area and asked them to pray about where we should go, if that was where the Lord wanted us. Late in the year, Wes asked Bro. Mickey for a couple of days off from his work to go camping by himself and seek the Lord's face for a definite answer. When he came back from that trip, he was confident that the Lord wanted us in Vancouver. Right away, we planned a survey trip, which we made in January, 2002. If you know anything about Vancouver, you know that January is one of the worst months of the year to visit here! It was cold, rainy, and foggy the whole week we were here. I remember the sun shining one afternoon for about 3 hours, and that was it for sunshine. We met Pastor Gordon Conner that week, and he was a wealth of information about Vancouver. He has been here for 24 years, and is probably more Canadian-minded than many native Canadians! He loves Canada, and he told us point-blank that Canadians are used to seeing American missionaries come here, stay 2 years, then go back home because they don't see results within that time (having been here for 2 years now, I can vouch for the not seeing much results in that time!). He said we needed to come with the intention of making this our life's work - no turning back. I think he was so blunt with us to see if we meant business. He was thrilled to be having another missionary come to the area. Remember how the men of our home church were praying about where we should go? Every time Wes looked at that map, North Vancouver would seem to leap off the page. When we came up here in 2002, he asked Pastor Conner what area he felt needed a church most desperately. His answer: North Vancouver! When we were driving into the city the first day, it was almost dark, and the lights of the city were coming on. As we topped a hill, all we could see, as far as we could see, were lights. Wes gasped and grabbed his chest. I asked him what was wrong, and he said he'd never imagined the magnitude of the job here until he saw it for himself. He was telling Pastor Conner about that the next day, and Pastor Conner said, "What you saw coming over that particular hill was North Vancouver!" So we spent the week going up and down the streets of North Vancouver. We fell in love with it! As we stood down by the water, looking across to the city of Vancouver from the North Shore, I looked at Wes and said, "I can live here, if this is where God wants us." At that point, we both knew that this was where God was leading us.
From that point, we never looked back. We spent about 6 months on part-time deputation, while Wes finished up the school year as principal. In June, we went full-time, and 2 years later, August 9, 2004, we entered Canada to spend the rest of our lives here, Lord willing. Personally, I have never been happier living anywhere else. The Lord took away every bit of that desire to live in SC (I asked Him to that day on the way to the grocery store) or anywhere else, for that matter. Both of my grandmothers passed away within 3 months of moving here. I thought I would just die myself when I had to miss their funerals, but the Lord gave me the grace I needed when I needed it. I'm 41 years old, so I've lived long enough to know that it won't always be easy, I may not even love it all the time, but I know that we're in God's perfect will, and here I'll stay till He tells me otherwise!